The English Game

Is Netflix's The English Game based on fact?

Are you enjoying the Downton Abbey creator's new period drama?

Emmy Griffiths

Fans have been loving Julian Fellowes' exciting new Netflix show The English Gamea period drama that looks at how football become the UK's most beloved sport in the 1800s. While the six-part series following Fergus 'Fergie' Suter has been a major success, just how much of it is true? 

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Is The English Game based on fact? 

Fergie, who is played by Kevin Guthrie in the show, was indeed a real person. Working as a stonemason, Kevin was the first person to be paid for playing football professionally, despite the game being considered suitable only for gentlemen who could afford to play it for free during those times. Arthur Kinnaird did also exist, and was the principal of the Football Association for 33 years.

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Fergie was the UK's first professional footballer

While it was true that Fergie was a professional footballer, the show has taken some artistic licence regarding which team he joined. While The English Game depicts that Fergie joined Blackburn Olympic in 1883 and won the FA Cup against Old Etonians, he actually originally joined Blackburn Rovers and lost against the Old Etonians in 1882 before going on to win for three years in a row from 1884. It was also accurate that he originally moved from Scotland to England to play for Darwen before moving to Blackburn Rovers.  

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Fergie is played by Kevin Guthrie

Meanwhile, it is thought that the love triangle between Fergie, Martha Almond and John Cartwright is not historically accurate, and that Fergie and Arthur tied the knot in 1883. Speaking about her character in the show, Niahm Walsh told the Radio Times: "She’s a real person. She exists in historical records only as a name. Because of the historical records, we know much less about the women than we do about the men – but happily, not in this show." Similarly, little is known about Arthur Kinnaird's wife in the show, Mary Alma Agnew, meaning that her plot line is entirely fictitious. 

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